|KEX'S AMAZING WORLD|
|Nine times out of ten, in the arts as in life, there is actually no truth to be discovered; there is only an error to be exposed. -- H.L. Menken|
Leviathan and Deep Star Six
Leviathan and Deep Star Six; &
You have to hand it to movie studios. They are just so adept at coming up with original ideas independently. Take for example, the year 1989: Not one, but three major studios independently (Im sure) came up with the idea of doing sci-fi adventure films in an underwater setting. We refer to The Abyss, Leviathan and Deep Star Six.
Out of these three films, The Abyss has the merits of a measure of originality, and a budget that actually permitted it to look like something Roger Corman didnt throw together on a bad day. Leviathan and Deep Star Six are entirely different animals, because they are not only throwbacks to bad 50s B-grade sci-fi, both are also essentially remakes of alien underwater.
The most challenging aspect of reviewing these two movies lies in the fact that after viewing them back to back, its darned near impossible to remember which is which. About the only really distinguishing characteristic that can be drawn from Leviathan over Deep Star is the presence of a few cast members that are reasonably well known today. At the time, actors like Peter Weller, Amanda Pays and Daniel Stern were early enough in their careers and hungry enough to take a chance at strangling their fledgling careers in the cradle for a little exposure. And Richard Crenna was sufficiently washed up that he probably figured any paycheck cashes out green, so there was no damage to be done by appearing in this film.
Both of these films are shameless Alien ripoffs, but Leviathan wins the honor of pulling it off the most blatantly without hint of a blush. The film changes the setting from outer space to ocean floor, plugs in new faces for the cast, and then becomes almost a literal line-by-line remake. We follow the adventures of the members of an undersea mining expedition (sound familiar?) who are wrapping up their tour of duty (sound familiar?) They come across a strange vessel (never mind), which turns out to be a sunken Russian submarine, The Leviathan.
After salvaging a few items from the sunken subs safe, the crew discovers the Captains video log. Fortunately, Ricard Crennas character happens to be one of the 3 dozen people in America who speaks fluent Russian, and he is able to translate the contents. The crew has come down with some sort of virulent infection, which is sweeping through the ship. But the video cuts off mid-sentence, leaving the crew ignorant as to the real problem.
It seems that the disease causes gene altering in the human hosts, and transforms the unlucky infected into grotesque, blood drinking sea creatures. We settle back to watch the crew members get picked off one by one, in order of their relative importance toward advancing the plot of the film to date. Naturally each new meal of a crew member causes the creature to grow larger and apparently even more hungry. Thus the creature grows from rubber eel into a creature we dont really get to see until near the end of the movie. That would have required the expenditure of some cash.
When we actually do finally get to see what the crews terror looks like, we get a pretty good idea why the people who made this film were so desperate to at least attempt to guard the credibility of their efforts. The dreaded beast is cheesy looking enough to have walked off of the set of the old Lost In Space TV series. Seriously: This film eats up a hundred minutes of our lives that we can never get back attempting to build up some sort of suspense and fear factor in the audience by menacing the crew with an essentially unseen and evil terror, then flushes (sorry, I couldnt resist) the entire effort with a monster that looks like H.R. Puffenstuff on a bad hair day.
Deep Star Six is an even worse movie in its way, but at least it attempts to distinguish itself from Alien ever so slightly before cashing in on it. Here we have some sort of undersea navy crew who are attempting to set up some sort of underwater missle base. I suspect a lot of people are going to be shot for this movie right off the bat, if the simple question typically occurs as to what the possible advantage could be of setting up a stationary undersea missle base.
The crew has discovered a set of caverns under the missle site, which they determine must be destroyed. However, the mission biologist wants to explore the caves first, because she believes they may be occupied by a rare life-form that has popped up frequently in local legend. If we werent already puzzled enough by the strategic merits of a stationary undersea missle base, we now get sidetracked by wondering why a marine biologist would be sent along on a mission to set one up. Maybe there is an EPA regulation or something.
It turns out that some sort of unknown arthropod exists in the area, which is attracted by light. If things in this film werent confusing enough, we now get to ask the question as to why any of the vessels in the film have lights in the first place. None of them have any viewports or anything of that nature. All their navigation appears to be done by sonar. I couldnt establish that it had much to do with anyone else being able to see them either, since they were at the bottom of the ocean, and apparently working on a more or less secret mission anyway.
Once again, the flesh eating terror gets into the crews underwater habitat, and begins the process of picking off crew members. Again, care was taken to avoid actually showing us the beast, because if anything, this movie was even lower budget than Leviathan. Thus we are ultimately treated to the site of what we are supposed to fear: A guy in a latex suit who looks like a hyperthyroid slug. But this film did feature one other departure: the principle force of evil really doesnt kill very many people. Almost everyone who dies in this film meets their fate either as the result of accident, stupidity or bad luck. The sea creature is almost an afterthought, probably because scenes of it eating someone would have been much harder to pull off than scenes of someone getting trapped in a closing hatch.
If it hadnt been for the landmark classic Alien, the output of Hollywood sci-fi over the last two decades would have been almost nil. It seems as if about 90% of all science fiction films have been virtual remakes of it. For the purpose of Hollywood, the beauty of it all is that you can do a virtual remake without having to invest a lot of money in a credible looking monster either. Just keep it hidden until the very end, when you become obliged to show the audience that their heroes have been terrified for an hour and a half by a guy covered in a shag carpet. Too bad all the drive-ins are gone.
Last Week: Ice Age:
This movie has been promoted fairly heavily over the last 4 months, but I was very curious as to why I had only seen one trailer for it. The common preview was taken directly from the movie's opening minutes, and showed some sort of sabre-toothed squirrel attempting to maintain control of an acorn inspite of a series of near catastrophes. After seeing the movie, I'm pretty sure why the producers were reluctant to show us any more of the film.
If they had taken the risk of giving us a little more insight as the the film's plot, there is a pretty good chance none of us would have ever seen it. Not because we would have been potentially turned off to it, but simply because the folks at Disney most likely would have taken some sort of legal action to prevent distribution of this movie. Its sort of hard to blame them.
You see, apart from the setting, Ice Age is so close to being a dead on remake of The Jungle Book that I sat through the entire film expecting its main character, a wooly mammoth named Manny (Ray Romano) to break into a song entitled "The Elephantine Necessities." The part of Bagara is neatly filled by a sabre-toothed tiger named Diego (Dennis Leary), and an annoying sloth named Sid (John Legiezamo) is tossed in for good measure.
The similarities between this movie and The Jungle Book may not be the only matter that has folks at Disney Studios burning up the phone lines with their attornies as I write. What little this movie didn't appropriate from Jungle Book appears to have come right out of Dinosaur. You have to figure that the Disney people are just foaming at the mouth at the moment, maybe because they didn't think of this whole thing first, as much as anything else.
This is one of those movies that has the double edged purpose of not only entertaing our children, but attempting to provide us with a thick dose of guilt about how wicked and nasty we human folk are. The film establishes a sort of natural moral heirarchy in which wooly mammoth's were clearly the pinnacle of creation, followed by sloth's, sabre-toothed tigers, and humans down at the bottom somewhere just below wooly rhinos and dodo birds. The plot of the entire film defines why things are set in that order.
A group of sabre-toothed tigers are plotting an attack on a tribe of humans, because the evil humans had apparently Pearl Harbored them sometime in the recent past and wiped out several members of the clan. The nasty pink apes even cut the dead cats up and used their fur to keep them warm. So the leader of the sabre-tooths is plotting a raid, aimed at kidnapping the baby of the tribes apparent leader, so the child could be eaten in revenge.
At this point, I'll profess a degree of ignorance as to paleolithic life, but I sort of think the sabre-toothed tigers just might have been guilty of starting this quarrel. Since we humans have never feasted selectively on large felines, I'm inclined to think that the humans apparent loathing for the beasts may have resulted from their actions, but thinking like that could spoil the emotional impact of this movie.
During the course of the raid, the human mother flees with her baby, only to be cornered by one of the sabre-tooths, Diego. Rather than facing the tigers, she leaps off a waterfall in an effort to save her baby.
Manny and Sid discover her along the banks of the river, and save the baby. The mother sacrifices herself when she washes down the river and apparently drowns. I think its safe to say that she probably wasn't the ancestor of a particular woman in southern Texas who is in the headlines of late. Manny and Sid decide to return the infant to the humans, but they meet up with Diego, who assures them that he can lead them to the humans. In reality, he is plotting an ambush.
As the story progresses, we learn that Manny's mate and child were apparently murdered by the evil humans in a hunt, but Manny is such a morally sound creature that he apparently resisted whatever temptation he may have initially had to bash the baby into the rocks and go on with his life. Maybe the sub-moral of the story here is that nice guys finish last. The last and only mammoths I've seen lately were mounted bones in natural history museums. Further, the trio develops a close friendship, and Diego ends up saving Manny and Sid from the ambush. That's because even sabre-toothed tigers are morally salvagable, and superior to humans.
Okay, all in all I liked this movie. It wasn't as good as Shrek or Dinosaur, but it was superior to Monsters Inc. Even the latter was better animated, but Ice Age had a vastly superior story, and was a lot funnier. There is a priceless scene in an ice cave in which the trio pass a series of objects frozen in the ice. That one scene is funny enough to warrant the price of admission alone. I won't give anything away with a description. Grab a kid and go see this one (with the parents permission, of course).
Last Week: Bringing Down the House:
At least there won't be any future arguments about which of Steve Martin's list of dismal cinematic contributions to American culture is the most destructive. This movie not only retired the trophy, but probably insured that there won't be any opportunity for future challenges to its undisputed crown. It is now simply impossible for me to believe that even in a culture spiraling downward as rapidly as ours, anyone is going to give Martin any chances to sink lower.
This movie pissed me off pretty badly for a lot of reasons, but there was one that rose above all the others. I'll save the thunder on that one for the end. In the meantime, I'll get to the others right away. Not that its all that easy. Just trying to decide where to start picking on this movie is a little like going into McDonalds and deciding which assault on your gastro-intestinal system will be the least offensive. Its like running a beauty contest among Nebraska landfills.
I don't really know how much it cost to make this movie. If it is fairly typical of Hollywood assaults in the genre, I'd guess the dismal expenditure ran somewhere in the $40-$50 million range. Its not too hard to figure out how that breaks down either. I'd suspect that Martin and his female lead, Queen Latifya pulled in a cool $5 million a piece on this effort. The rest of the cast put together probably hauled in a similar total.
The rest of the production people probably claimed another 5 mill, and the overall costs of making the film would figure to be similar. I excluded the cost of the script, which was clearly produced by drunken and brain dead colubus monkies, so that accounted for the total cost of maybe a ream of paper...we'll say $3.95. I don't think there is any union scale for non-human primates, so all the producers had to do to skate by was toss out the occasional banana. That would keep the Humane Society watchdogs off their ass. A bunch of bananas only costs a couple of bucks at the most, so that isn't a significant cost either.
So the question arises, where did the other $25 million that it cost to make this barf-o-rama go? Elementary, Watson. It cost at least that much to finance Steve Martin's eyeliner. I swear the man probably spent 5 hours every night to chisel it off. Tack on the other 5 hours it must have taken the make-up artist every morning to firehose it on, and not much time is left on a daily basis to do a whole lot of filming.
I can't say that the message this movie was trying to convey exactly left me convinced that the answers to significant social problems were being addressed. If I caught it properly, I think someone was trying to convince us that society would be a whole lot better off if we all acted a little more like felonious gangstas. Yeah, that will work.
I'm not sure why, maybe it was some sort of weird intuition, but I actually took my cell phone into the theater with me for the first time ever. Mind you, it was turned off. But only by the most ardent self-discipline was I able to resist the overwhelming temptations to whip it out during this film and place an emergency call to 911. There would have been all sorts of reasonable justifications.
We could start with a robbery in progress. Clearly the 16 bucks I had to pay to sit through this gagfest constitued something akin to highway robbery. Or a call for a homocide in progress would have been equally justified. Watching most of the proceedings was slowly killing me. Somehow I resisted the urges, but only barely.
This movie painted itself into such hopeless corners plotwise that it had to resort to virtually every lameass contrivance that Hollywood is using these days to decend to the lowest common demoninator: There were laxative in the food jokes. There was a snooty old lady getting high on pot joke. There was a white trash lady battling a gangsta black woman routine. There was a anal retentive white guy trying to pass himself off as hip gangsta scene. It came, it sucked, I suffered.
But I haven't even played my trump card yet. I'm getting there, but before I really blast this movie back to hell from whence it came, I just wanted to note the one credit this movie included which proves that we should be massing troops outside Los Angeles County, and not Iraq: Somebody was actually credited as Queen Latifya's hair stylist. For those who didn't stick around to read all of the credits, but have seen this movie, allow me to shock you by noting that the credited individual was not "Cuisinart."
Now its time to drop my bomb. One credit did not appear at the end of this film, and I'm both enraged and shocked. Why the hell was I not credited with teaching Steve Martin all those dance steps?
Last Week: A video review: The Guru:
Forced to say something good about this movie, a lot of consideration would have to go into the matter. Then I might come up with something on the order of, "I didn't pay very much to see it." That puts me way ahead of about 99.9% of everyone in America who haven't paid anything to see it, and for that matter, haven't seen it in any event. There was only one copy at Blockbuster, and nobody had checked it out.
This movie opened in independent theaters over a year ago, and received a very brief and limited run in mainstream theaters. The thud with which it crashed to earth at the box office left a hole deep enough to hide all of the money Halliburton has overcharged the government over the past year, with room left over for all the funds Enron absconded from shareholders and employees. Its flop was well deserved.
I'm at least glad that I had the opportunity to suffer through this festival of vulgarity in the comfort of my own home, the necessity having been created to have to see it at all. Now I just have to fight back the temptations to tell a story about I guy I once knew from India instead of talking about the movie. It would be a lot more fun because the story has all sorts of juicy plot turns. But a lot of people read these reviews now and I don't want to get sued. So, I guess I'll have to stick with the painful duty of talking about the movie.
They have elephants in India. Most of you know that. I always think its kind of cool to see films from India with guys riding elephants down the street. That would be one great job. Imagine getting to ride elephants for a living. Of course, the worst job in the world would be following the elephants down the street with a shovel. It kind of makes you hope that there really is such a thing as reincarnation, and the Hindu gods are just. The mental image of members of the Bush family walking behind elephants with shovels makes life worth living.
Oh yeah. The movie. This film opens with its main character, Ramu (Jim Mistry), sitting in a theater as a young boy. He is apparently being forced to sit through some 70's Indian production that might even be worse than this film. Hard as that is to imagine, it looks like it might be possible. Eventually he gets bored with the proceedings on the screen (well after we do) and wanders into another theater, where Grease is playing.
If entertainment choices in India are defined by either the movie young Ramu was watching or Grease, one wonders why the population of India is so large. One would not be given to wonder if suicide became pandemic in the country. However the vision of John Travolta inspires young Ramu instead of turning his stomach, and he decides to become an actor. Yes, some of you people out there actually have tried to convince me that musicals like Grease aren't a sure sign that we are on the slippery slope toward apocalypse.
Ramu grows up to work in a dance studio, but eventually comes to America to chase his dreams of being a movie star. Rather quickly, he learns that his opportunities are more confined to working at 7-11 or driving a cab. Right there the movie should have ended. Instead, we had to plough through another hour and twenty minutes.
Still hoping to realize his dreams of acting, Ramu lands a job in a film which turns out to be a porn movie. His co-star Sharona (Heather Graham) tries to help him overcome his reservations about appearing in porn, but Ramu's values get in the way. Its not that Sharona is really okay with the profession either, because she is covering her occupation by telling her fiance that she is a school teacher. The guess here is that Graham was telling her family some similar lie to cover for the fact that she was filming this piece of trash. Just what was she doing in this production anyway?
By a stroke of fate, Ramu ends up covering for a drunken guru at a birthday party for a professional socialite played by Marisa Tomei. I wasn't all that surprised to see Tomei in this film, because she has spent most of the last decade appearing in throwaway indies. Karma caught up with her after winning an Oscar for a bad performance in a really bad movie some years ago, and her lot has been cast.
Suddenly Ramu develops a reputation as a sex guru, but he is fairly innocent and naieve. So he taps the brain of Sharona to help him with his teachings. The entire plot is complicated by the fact that he never tells Sharona what he is up to, and he is falling madly in love with her all the while. She is developing similar feelings for him, but can't express them since she is engaged.
The whole things leads up to a ridiculous conclusion which is ripped off from both The Graduate and, believe it or not, Grease. You know that an hour and a half of your life has been utterly tragically wasted when a movie has to rip off any aspect of its plotline from Grease. Ramu gets Sharona, her fiance turns out to be gay, and everyone is happy. Except for me. I actually have to put out the effort to take this movie back to Blockbuster instead of depositing it in the nearest waste recepticle. Even sadder, some other poor sap out there might rent it.
The only reason we rented this movie was the lack of decent choices at the theaters this weekend, and the memory of trailers we had previous seen of it. I can't remember any of the scenes from those trailers actually being in the movie. I'm pretty sure that they weren't ripped off from Grease, however. At least I would have known better than to have rented it.
Previously: Fever Pitch:
Its hard to imagine that there is still anyone left in Hollywood that can pick up a script and think to themselves, "Wow! Drew Barrymore would be great for this part!" Its especially difficult to imagine that anyone could pick up a script that requires a bright, female mathematical analyst and think to themselves, "Wow, Drew Barrymore would be great for this part!"
In the first place, Drew Barrymore and math genious go together like Tom Delay and integrity. Its like casting Callista Flockheart in The Shelly Winters Story. Even ignoring that, it doesn't matter all that much what part you might want to give to Drew Barrymore. America is still going to look at her and have that bone chilling, nauseating sensation that can only come from thinking about sweaty sex with Tom Greene.
The premise of Fever Pitch is that a middle school math teacher, played by Jimmy Fallon meets a corporate math analyst, as played by the aforementioned Barrymore. Fallon is smitten with her, and asks her out on a date. Since an attractive, approaching 30 woman who probably pulls down close to 6 figures a year apparently can't meet a decent guy in Boson, Drew is receptive to his advances.
The first date is nearly disasterous because Barrymore has contracted food poisoning, and when Fallon arrives to pick her up, she is busy projectile vomiting all over her apartment. Its kind of the same reaction the rest of us have everytime we see Barrymore, and start thinking about being intimate with Tom Greene.
But Fallon is a sensitive guy, and she stays with Barrymore to help nurse her through the crisis. He helps her change into a nightgown, cleans up her apartment, washes the windows, does the dishes, grooms the dog, takes care of her tax returns, and changes the lightbulbs. All of this on the first night.
Of course, if anything like this ever happened in reality, even the fever tortured Barrymore would have summoned whatever energy she had, and immediately phoned 9-11 to report a dangerous stalker. But Barrymore is smitten after clearly mistaking anal retentivity for sensativity. Its probably an easy mistake to make in Boston.
The two grow closer, and Barrymore introduces Fallon to her friends at a party. They all think he is great, but can't help but wonder why a guy so wonderful isn't already married. Its one of those catty female things, that a knockout hottie with a great job in Boston like Drew can be single, but any man in the same situation has to have a ton of baggage.
It turns out that they are right. Fallon is a Red Sox fan. Now, if you don't understand baseball, that might seem a bit mysterious. Most people can be baseball fans, and still function more or less adequately in society. But Fallon isn't just a fan. He is a wildly fanatical Red Sox fan, which is another matter entirely.
Effectively there are two grades of Red Sox fans; extremely obnoxious, and completely, over the top grotesquely obnoxious. Its kind of like Nebraska football fans. So poor Drew finds herself competing with a passion greater than any possible romantic attraction: She has to go head to head with the Red Sox.
To pull a Red Sox fan away from their particular addiction is like dragging a cocaine fiend out of the fountain of crack. It just can't be done, and we know that nothing positive can ultimately come out of the relationship. That sets us us for the standard Hollywood romantic comedy formula, which is disappointing since this is a Farrely brothers film.
From them, we would normally expect some sort of bizzare twists, or at least a break in the predictable flair from over the top gross out humor. NOne of that is forthcoming. The film follows a painfully predictable path to its conclusion, which is especially baffling since this movie was actually filmed last fall, and it the events that they were following had such a wildly unpredictable conclusion that they actually had to rewrite the ending of the film.
The Farrely's, like everyone else in the world, expected the Red Sox to fall apart in the playoff's last year, and hand their fans yet another season of bitter disappointment. Instead, the Sox pulled off an impossible comeback against the Yankees, and went on to win the World Series. That forced them to pull a less compelling than originally written ending out of their collective asses.
It was almost impossible to turn on the TV last week without seeing a promo clip from this movie. Either the trailer was runnig as a commerical, or somebody from the film was being interviewed somewhere. Publicity wise, it was blown up like a California govenor. Or maybe a 3 spot hitter for the San Francisco Giants. There were moments when it wasn't even painful, but in the end, unlike the Sox last year, let its fans down with its predictability.
Last Week: Just My Luck:
Just my luck. I had to sit through this movie. Its not an experience that inspires you to want to go out and buy Powerball tickets. On the other hand, I did feel some good fortune that I was still breathing by the time the final credits rolled. For awhile there, I wasn't so sure I'd survive.
This is a movie about the luckiest, and stupidest woman on the face of the Earth. Ashley Albright (Lindsay Lohan) is so lucky that everytime she scratches a lottery ticket. She wins. Now, the question immediately arises here: Why does this woman bother to have a job? All she has to do is get a couple of bucks and spend it on lottery tickets. Since she wins every time, she can take in the winning tickets and get more. Within a short time, she will amass a considerable fortune even if all she does is double her winnings every time out.
But Ashley's luck isn't confined to simply winning at lottery games. If she goes outside and its raining, the rain stops. She gets a cab every time she hails one. If she steps on an elevator, a rich handsome man will step on it with her and ask her out. Evidently it never occurs to her just to make a quick trip to Vegas and clean up.
Ashley is the darling and envy of her friends. Curiously, she actually has friends. In real life, anyone who is as annoyingly lucky as Ashley would be about as popular as Ted Nugent at a PETA convention. Still, her friends idolize her, and her boss adores her as well. Ashley made me want to barf.
When her boss gets stuck on an elevator, Ashely manages to win a big account for her company by pitching a masquerade ball to an important record executive, Damon Phillips (Fazion Love). Since the blowout party is Ashley's idea, her boss permits her to plan the whole affair. It is supposed to be a huge steppingstone in her career, but I was still stuck pondering why she has a job anyway, but we've already covered that.
Meanwhile, Jake Hardin (Chris Pine) is the unluckiest guy in the world. He is trying to manage a new British band called McFly, although listening to them made me want to McDie. I was sure at one point I was going to McPuke. Anyway, Jake is trying to get a CD of their music to Damon, but his bad luck keeps getting in the way.
But contrary to the point of the movie, and incredible piece of good luck enables him to crash Ashley's party when he is mistaken for one of her hired dancers. In another stroke of what seemed to me like incredibly good luck, he meets Ashley and kisses her, which causes their respective luck to switch.
Jake manages to save Damon from being hit by a cab. In reality, that was more lucky for the taxi driver than it was for Damon, because the man is the size of a bus. Still, a greatful Damon gives Jake a recording contract for McFly, and suddenly Jake's new found good luck leads him to a wonderful life.
But as you would expect, everything is crashing in around Ashley, who can't figure out what has happened to her. I must admit that watching all sorts of bad fortune fall upon Lindsay Lohan wasn't entirely unpleasant. But it got kind of boring.
Speaking of Lohan, this is a woman who was worried that her acting career might be damaged by playing sidekick to Herbie the Love Bug. HEEEEEEEEEEELLO LINDSAY! Have you taken a serious look at your career body of work? Do you think a lot of people were taking you seriously after Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen? or Get A Clue? or Freaky Friday?
The rest of this movie turns into a romantic comedy, as Ashley and Jake find each other, and realize that just being together is the root of all their good fortune, whichever one happens to possess it. The world would have been a lot luckier if the original print had been destroyed in a fire.
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